- In its first survey in Sudan's Darfur region, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) found that 22 percent of children under the age of five are malnourished and almost half of all families do not have enough food. The situation was best for families remaining in their homes, while internally displaced Darfuris were heavily dependent on food aid.
WFP today released the results of its first survey of nutrition and food security among internally displaced people and residents across western Sudan. It found that almost half the households in Darfur are not consuming enough food to sustain an active and healthy life.
The internally displaced were "markedly worse off" than local residents, the WFP survey concluded. Only some 6 percent of the Darfuri people living in camps are able to obtain sufficient food by their own means and not relying on food assistance. This contrasts 46 percent of local residents capable of feeding themselves.
- While much has been done for months now to feed as many people as possible in Darfur, the survey underlines how much remains to be done, said Ramiro Lopes da Silva, the WFP's Country Director in Sudan. "But food alone is not enough. The response also has to be significantly stronger on water, sanitation and health," he added.
The survey, conducted in all three Darfur states during August and September, reveals a serious situation, especially among the displaced. However, the survey report says increasing food aid alone cannot reduce malnutrition. "A basic minimum public health package, including adequate supplies of clean water and medicine, should accompany food and nutrition aid," it says.
WFP collected data on more than 5,000 people at 56 sites in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other UN agencies - but also with the support of Sudan's Ministries of Health and Agriculture. Sudanese authorities have up to now been very critical towards data presented by WFP regarding the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
The WFP report said while food aid was already reaching 70 percent of those living in camps, the malnutrition rate for children in Darfur under the age of five was still 21.8 percent. This figure is well beyond the 15 percent rate regarded as indicating a serious situation. Further, a total of 3.9 percent of children in Darfur suffered from severe acute malnutrition.
Alarmingly, the survey found that only 18 percent of the identified malnourished children in need of supplementary feeding were being reached, and that none of the seriously malnourished children in the sample of families surveyed received the therapeutic care they needed at special feeding centres.
- There was a problem of capacity, said Mr da Silva. "There were so many people who went hungry that we first had to give food to everyone. Only now can we start expanding to give special additional rations to every child under five and pregnant women. We also found that many women with sick children simply did not know that these centres exist," he explained.
Further, health problems were found to be widespread, with more than 40 percent of children having diarrhoea and 18 percent acute respiratory infections. These are the major causes of death for young children in developing countries. The survey also found a need to improve child immunisation against measles.
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